When most of us think of autumn (or as we like to call it, fall), we think of apples, pumpkins and squash. The pumpkin is a fruit of the vine, marketed as a vegetable, and rich with legend and lore. Remember Cinderella being chauffeured to the ball in a pumpkin-turned-coach? The horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” used a pumpkin propped under his arm as proof of his headless condition. And then there was “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater” of celebrated Mother Goose rhyme.
Now for real food history: pumpkin has also been held in high esteem in many cultures. In ancient China, the pumpkin was a symbol of success and wealth. Here in the United States, pumpkin played a starring role in the first Thanksgiving celebration, and to this day it remains a main attraction of the traditional family meal for desert. It really isn’t a seasonal food any longer since we have the convenience of canned pumpkin in the grocery store. Baked pumpkin dishes are so full of flavor.
When it comes to nutrition, we need to be eating pumpkin year round as it is a power house of nutrition. Pumpkin is an excellent source of many nutrients with irresistible aroma, flavor, and texture. Rich in vitamin A, pumpkin also contains iron, potassium and vitamin C, plus many other necessary nutrients. An added bonus is that pumpkin is low in calories, sodium and fat.
Solid packed pumpkin is completely natural and as close to home baked or cooked as possible. Two types of pumpkin are canned commercially, plain pumpkin that has nothing added to it and pumpkin pie mix that have flavorings, sugar etc. added to it. One cup of plain pumpkin contains 80 calories, 2 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram fat, 10 milligrams of salt, and 470 milligrams of potassium.
Baking with pumpkin during the holiday season evolved because it closely followed the harvest time when pumpkin was in great supply. Pumpkin was less commonly used during the rest of the year, not for lack of popularity, but because it was considered a “seasonal” product. As I wrote earlier in this column, pumpkin should be prepared all year round as it is really good for us.
Commercially canned pumpkin should not be limited to just pie. Try quick breads, cakes, pancakes, waffles, muffins, main dishes, and refrigerator or freezer desserts.
If you are working at reducing calories in your healthy eating, know that you can make and bake a pumpkin pie without the crust. I grease the pie plate with pan grease, which is equal amounts of flour, shortening, and oil mixed together and stored in the refrigerator. Once the pie plate is greased I pour the pumpkin pie mixture into the pie plate and bake it. You are supposed to wait till the pie has cooled to enjoy it, but I personally like it when I have too much pie mixture and have to bake the extra in a custard cup and enjoy that when it is still warm.
Here is to all the great food that you can prepare with pumpkin!